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Cultural Borders: Director Patrica Riggen on Sharing with Audiences in China and Taiwan
Cultural Borders: Director Patrica Riggen on Sharing with Audiences in China and Taiwan
Cultural Borders: Director Patrica Riggen on Sharing with Audiences in China and Taiwan

Cultural Borders: Director Patrica Riggen on Sharing with Audiences in China and Taiwan

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A world without borders.

Ryan Roberts, the Cultural Affairs Officer at the American Institute in Taiwan explains to me early on in our first orientation meeting, that Taiwan has a heavy influx of immigrants from the Philippines. They’re mainly domestics and factory workers, but there’s also a number of imported “domestic partners.” In other words: wives. 

Mr. Roberts explains this to me in reference to my film Under the Same Moon (La Misma Luna), which is screening in Taipei and other locations throughout Taiwan as part of the Film Forward program. My film is about Mexican immigrant workers in the United States. It’s about the struggles these economic migrants face daily in their pursuit of what I consider to be a basic human right: the right to provide for one’s self and one’s family.

Mr. Roberts was right to draw my attention to the immigration issues facing Taiwan. The Taiwanese are quick to refer to these issues following the first screening of my film. A gentleman in the audience explains to me that the Taiwanese were once immigrant workers themselves, who relocated to Japan and countries further a field in order to make a living and provide for their loved ones.

These days this situation is reversed. I’m reliably informed that the Taiwanese Government has put in place measures to protect their immigrant worker’s legal rights, but unfortunately there’s still ill-feeling between the Taiwanese and their immigrant workforce. The gentleman from the audience is thankful that my film Under the Same Moon (La Misma Luna) reminds the Taiwanese people of the plight of these immigrants. 

At the final screening of my film in Taiwan (all the screenings take place in fantastic auditoriums to enthusiastic audiences) a young man from the audience raises his hand. He tells me how moved he was by the story of Under the Same Moon (La Misma Luna)’s central character; the nine year–old Carlitos, whose mother leaves him to seek work illegally in the United States. 

The young man in the audience reveals that his own story is not unlike Carlitos’. His mother spent most of her working life outside Taiwan, in order to provide her son with a better life than her own. The young man is moved to tears as he recounts his experiences. And so am I.

Borders. I don’t like the state of our world today. The whole concept of national borders feels archaic to me. Why should a passport define one’s value in this world? Why is a US citizen or European Community member worth more than an African, a Central American or a Bangladeshi? Is this not racial discrimination on a global scale? It wasn’t that long ago that the supposed “civilized world” considered a black man less worthy than a white man. Or a woman less worthy than a man. (It’s still the case in some countries). It’s time we looked at unifying our world. It’s one world, where all men and women are created equal. 

The documentary film about climate change, Chasing Ice, which also screened with Film Forward delivers this message precisely. We all share the same world. We all have the right to live in it. Safely. And we all have to take responsibility for caring for it. If one of us is hungry, or suffering, or intent on destroying our planet, then we must use our collective powers to stop this from happening. 

I dream of the day when economic borders are confined to history and only cultural borders remain. Travelling should be about cultural exchange, not about survival. 

Thank you Film Forward for this experience!

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